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The Power of Narrative: Telling the Story of Sustainability in Higher Education

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Title: Transformative Education for Sustainability Author: PMorgan Last modified by: Blaine Collison Created Date: 6/29/2007 5:24:19 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Power of Narrative: Telling the Story of Sustainability in Higher Education


1
The Power of Narrative Telling the Story of
Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Blaine Collison, US Environmental Protection
    Agency (EPA)
  • Joshua Lasky University of the District of
    Columbia (UDC)
  • Paul Morgan West Chester University of PA (WCU)

2
The Power of Narrative
  • Our genius lies in our capacity to make meaning
    through the creation of narratives that give
    point to our labors, exalt our history, elucidate
    the present, and give direction to our future.
  • Neil Postman, The End of Education

3
Introduction Where were going today
  • Presentation
  • The elements of successful narrative
  • Examples from campus sustainability and beyond
  • Discussion
  • How do we tell stories that drive more action?
  • What are YOUR campus sustainability stories?

4
Later Telling Your Sustainability Story
  • 1. Whats the story you have actually been
    enacting?
  • 2. Whats the story you want, hope, need to
    enact?
  • Are they the same?
  • 3. How can you retell the story of your work in a
    way that celebrates successes while acknowledging
    the enormity of the sustainability challenge?
  • 4. What can you do that makes it more likely that
    surprising, non-linear change will happen?

5
Later The Elevator Pitch
  • What is your institutions sustainability story?
    Tell that story in one minute or less to the
    person sitting next to you.

6
Later Tweet-sized Bite
  • Tell your institutions sustainability story in
    140 characters or less.

7
Elements of an Effective Story
  • Engage your audience (Hey! Over here!)
  • Give them something (Heres something you want)
  • Hold their attention (Gotta get to the next
    step)
  • Drive reaction (DO something Think, act, buy)
  • Examples - Six word stories
  • Smoking my very last cigarette. Again.
  • Knife hidden, he rings the doorbell.
  • Solar energy spill Nice summer day.

8
Campus Sustainability Journey
Concept Julie Newman, Leith Sharp, Norman
Christopher
AWAKENING
PIONEERING
TRANSFORMATION
SYSTEMS-BASED
INTEGRATION
CHANGE
(TRANSFORMATIVE)
PROGRESS
MUTUAL SYMBIOSIS
(TRANSITIONAL)
PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION
VALUE-ADDED
APPLICATION INVESTMENT
COALITION BUILDING
LOW-RISK PILOT
EFFICIENT
UNDERSTANDING
INITIAL RECRUITMENT
AWARENESS
CULTURAL
CREDIBLE
AUTHENTIC
PEOPLE
PROJECTS
INSTITUTION
X-AXIS SUSTAINABILITY PERCEPTIONS
Y-AXIS DECISION-MAKING BASIS
9
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10
  • Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___.
    One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of
    that, ___. Until finally ___.

11
  • gt

12
  • All narratives are imperfect, and potentially
    dangerous. Yet we cannot live without them so we
    should tell and enact our stories wisely.

13
Mastering Behavior Change
  • How can we take back the art of storytelling and
    put it to use in the sustainability movement?
  • (Master storytellers are behavior change
    engineers. Right now, the masters are people who
    have managed to successfully get us to buy stuff
    we dont need, get us to eat things that are
    slowly killing us, and otherwise waste our
    time/health/money.)

14
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15
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16
  • West Chester University
  • Green Campus Pioneer (sort of)

WCUs Green Campus Committee was charged by
President Adler in November 1992 to function as
a task force and spend one year studying the
feasibility of West Chester University becoming
a green campus. But . . . . . .
17
By Fall 1999, the only remnant was the Campus
Beautification Committee, which was selecting
furniture for Main Hall.
18
  • West Chester University Mission Statement
  • 2000-2001
  • This did not appear in the 2001-2002 catalogs

As part of this commitment to the future, the
University is becoming a green campus designed to
demonstrate that a community can, through inquiry
and education, act in a manner consistent with
the goal of a sustainable earth.

19
Plan for Excellence 2007 Update
  • Encourage environmental awareness through
    training, curricula, and co-curricular
    programming, assess and reduce the ecological
    impact of the University, and promote research
    and service that foster regional and global
    sustainability.

20
Mitch Thomashow
  • Visited WCU
  • February 23-25 2009

21
  • President Greg Weisensteins Inaugural Address

Regardless of our students' choice of major,
upon graduation from West Chester University,
they should be clearly identifiable as champions
of the environment. (September 25, 2009)
22
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23
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24
Education for Sustainability Certificate
Programs Undergraduate Graduate
  • Are you ready to start earning a certificate in
    Education for Sustainability?
  • Learn how to help others understand the challenge
    of sustainability and become active
  • participants in solutions. Youll be prepared to
    create real change in your profession, community,
    and daily life with courses that emphasize
    outdoor, experiential, and project-based
    learning.
  • Visit www.wcupa.edu or contact Dr. Paul Morgan at
    610-436-6945 pmorgan_at_wcupa.edu

25
Office of Sustainability
Sustainability Coordinator (Half-Time) Reports
directly to the President
26
WCU Strategic Planning Process
  • WCU Strategic Planning Committee
  • Sustainability one of 5 Themes

27
  • Reflections Lessons
  • Think big, but dont fail it poisons the water
    for years
  • Learn how the bureaucracy works
  • Focus on critical leverage points (e.g. The
    Strategic Plan)
  • Make effective use of outside experts
  • Top-level support helps, but start where you are
  • Act like you belong at the table, not like a
    marginalized, glorified student environmental
    club
  • Reach out go beyond the usual suspects


28
But . . . I often get the feeling that all of
this is happening in a bubble
29

30
Occasionally we glimpse a bigger story outside
the institutional bubble with its familiar
paradigm of change management goal-setting,
action-planning, implementation, assessment,
evaluation, etc.
31
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32
Once upon a time . . . there was a planet
33
6th Mass Extinction
34
6th Mass Extinction
35
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36
Footprints and Consumption
37
Climate Change
38
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39
Crisis of Professional Narrative
  • This story of the planet has brought me to a
    crisis point in my story as a sustainability
    professional. For sustainability in higher
    education, these are good times, but the
    reality is that there is an enormous gap
    separating the severity of the planetary crisis
    and even my best responses to it.

40
Grappling with the Crisis of Narrative
  • How can we operate in the old story where we
    have our current jobs and a habitual way of life
    while simultaneously telling and making a new
    story in which we open up the possibility of a
    viable future?
  • Heres how Ive been grappling with the gap . . .

41
A story about a civilizational train . . .
42
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43
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44
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45
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46
A Hard Truth
  • Almost everything being done in the name of
    sustainable development addresses and attempts to
    reduce unsustainability. But reducing
    unsustainability, although critical, does not and
    will not create sustainability
  • --John R. Ehrenfeld, Sustainability by Design

47
  • Avoidance
  • Magical Thinking

48
  • Some Problems
  • Deliberate worldview change is
  • 1) Unprecedented
  • 2) Not widely desired
  • 3) Fraught with paradoxes

Less Unsustainable
49

50
Where do we go from here?
  • A Creative Storytelling Leap

51
How do we mind the gap?
  • Less
  • Unsustainability Sustainability

52
Daniel Quinn
  • If there are still people here in 200 years,
    they wont be thinking the way we do. I can make
    that prediction with confidence, because if
    people go on thinking the way we do, then theyll
    go on living the way we doand there wont be any
    people here in 200 years.

53
What story will they tell?
  • What is the story people will tell in 2212
    about how we managed to get off track, cross the
    chasm, and begin telling and making a new story?

54
What is the story of how this happened?
55
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56
Telling Our Stories
57
Keep it positive . . .
58
Be bold and visionary
59
Telling Your Sustainability Story
  • 1. Whats the story you have actually been
    enacting?
  • 2. Whats the story you want, hope, need to
    enact?
  • Are they the same?
  • 3. How can you retell the story of your work in a
    way that celebrates successes while acknowledging
    the enormity of the sustainability challenge?
  • 4. What can you do that makes it more likely that
    surprising, non-linear change will happen?

60
Inspiration
  • What historical lessons can we take inspiration
    from?
  • What will inspire us to see our work in
    epoch-making proportions?

61
Instructions Elevator Pitch
  • What is your institutions sustainability story?
    Tell that story in one minute or less to the
    person sitting next to you.

62
Instructions Tweet-sized Bite
  • Tell your institutions sustainability story in
    140 characters or less.

63
  • Its all a question of story. We are in
    trouble just now because we do not have a good
    story.
  • --Thomas Berry

64
The Power of Narrative Telling the Story of
Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Blaine Collison Collison.Blaine_at_epamail.epa.gov
  • Joshua Lasky jlasky_at_udc.edu
  • Paul Morgan pmorgan_at_wcupa.edu
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